The Social Media Merry Go Round

Sometimes we speak out of anger.  Sometimes we speak just to hear our own voices.  Sometimes we don’t even mean the things we say and still say it.  When you find yourself in one of those moments, stay off of social media.   When your blood is boiling or you feel overcome by the sudden urge to take a jab at someone – take a minute and think about it.  Should you let your hands run rampant on a keyboard?  Should you pull out your phone and “keep it real?”  Or should you just keep it to yourself?

With access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and numerous other social media outlets, it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and say something that was better left unsaid.  For Larry Nance Jr., he’s learning that the hard way.

It’s been well noted that in May of 2012, young Nance sent out this tweet:

CIZW00sUcAAPXIG-1

Pretty harsh attack on the “Black Mamba” Kobe Bryant.

Three years later, Nance is drafted by the L.A. Lakers and finds himself in the Black Mamba’s snake pit.

Luckily for Nance, when he apologized to Kobe about words said three years ago, Kobe accepted his apology and said : “We all say things we regret.”  Maybe our usually venom-infused-basketball -reptilian is getting tired in his later stages.  Or maybe, Kobe really just doesn’t care what the 27th pick of the NBA draft had to say about him, 3 years ago.  Whatever it was that let Nance, slip out of the wrath of Kobe – a lesson should be learned to all.

Kobe+Bryant+zGq1aqoPk2Im

This isn’t the first time an athlete made a statement on social media and was publicly crucified for it.

Sure, sometimes it’s fun – like when we see Richard Sherman beefing with the likes of Darrelle Revis or Patrick Peterson.  We even enjoy it when the Twitter handles of organizations take cheap shots at each other – but some of these kids have to chill.

Social media has become part of society and has made a huge impact on journalism.  Blog sites can write a two paragraph piece on a single tweet and try to blow up a meaningless joke as something harsh or disrespectful.  Athletes, especially younger athletes – need to understand this.

Some coaches in college like Rick Pitino of Louisville, frowns down at his students who update their lives on social media, because of the risk of saying something stupid that will come back to burn them.   It may seem ridiculous but maybe some college coaches should be hiring social media coaches – or social media regulators on their staffs just to make sure these 18 or 19 year old kids aren’t saying anything reckless for the whole world to see.

Larry+Nance+Jr+Wyoming+v+UNLV+cKm0zobzshll

Larry Nance Jr. is just one instance and there will be many more that follow.  Young men like Nance are more concerned with “retweets” and “likes” then maturity.  It’s not totally their fault though, it’s encouraged to be outrageous on social media – those things can make you a star in today’s world.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Cleveland’s Playing With Dirty Money (Manziel)

Johnny Manziel is en route to becoming a huge laughing stock if he doesn’t shape up quickly.  Half the world was rooting for the cocky quarterback out of Texas A&M, while the other half wanted to see him struggle.  The latter half of that bunch got their wish granted last season.

Johnny+Manziel+Cleveland+Browns+v+Buffalo+2V_CqFTVbXul

“Manziel Mania” was so crazy last year, that when he first saw any action in an NFL game it was in a loss to the Buffalo Bills.  In that loss, Manziel scampered for a 10 yard score and it was all anyone could talk about in a 26-10 BILLS victory.  In games that followed Manziel looked small, unsure and flat out terrible.  During and after the season, reports had come out that Manziel was not putting in the work and he hadn’t made any of the mature, necessary changes he had vowed to make once he made it to the NFL.

After his disappointing rookie campaign, Manziel continued to disappoint the Browns and his fans altogether.  Manziel had not stopped his drinking and partying ways and eventually checked himself into an alcohol addiction center.  Some can see this as a step in maturity, but this goes beyond football – it’s about this kid’s life really.

On the football side of things, the Cleveland Browns didn’t learn anything from watching the Tampa Bay Bucs last season and signed 35 year old quarterback Josh McCown (who turns 36 on Independence Day).   McCown is still living the high life after a nice 4-5 week span in Chicago two years ago.  McCown was awful last season, but for some reason the Browns coaching staff has tricked themselves into believing that he, not Manziel, will be their starter in the upcoming season.

Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo even said “Everything you’re looking for in a quarterback, Josh has.”

Really?  Why has it taken a coach to say that for the first time since 2002, if that’s the case?  McCown is a “fill in” guy.  Everybody knows it.  Everybody also knows he’s just filling in because Manziel can’t get his “you know what” together.

2015+NBA+Finals+Game+Three+zFpbhUKNEj2l

Manziel’s talents – are limited.   Limited size, limited strength and limited speed.  His arm strength is actually pretty impressive but that’s about it.  What made Manziel remarkable in college was his ability to improvise.  The reason why he had to improvise so much was because he held onto the ball for forever and danced around in the back field.  RG3 played that way and he’s already at the point where the stadium in Washington holds their breath every time he gets bumped or falls.

If anybody ever had to study and be silent when in film study – it’s Johnny Manziel.  When you don’t have the God-given size and strength to play the game, you have to work harder than the next man to prove yourself.  Especially when you have types that are physically and more naturally gifted than you in the league like Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco, who have those gifts and still put in the work.

The question is:  Will Manziel put in the work?

Let’s be honest.  If there was a poll of 100 people who had to answer that question anonymously – at least 80 people will say : “no.”

Johnny+Manziel+Duke+v+Texas+4pZDq_rUzzul

Manziel would’ve been better suited staying in college for four years and becoming a college legend.  He could’ve stayed partying and improvised all he wanted and along the way could’ve kept A&M in SEC contention – remember he was that good in college.  Now in the NFL, he isn’t looked at in the locker room as a savior to a franchise.  He’s looked upon as a punk kid – and if not a punk kid – a spoiled brat.

Manziel’s “celebrity” exceeds anything he can bring to the table at the moment.  If you google the name “Johnny,” you will see he’s the third name listed, under Depp and Cash.  We’re talking about a back up quarterback who looked like trash last year and committed himself for alcohol abuse.  That “Johnny” is the third most popular search on the internet.

Johnny may finally have some people around him who aren’t “yes men” or maybe he is finally seeing the light.  He’s not as busy on twitter lately (3 tweets in the month of June with his last tweet before those being in January) and even his nearly one and half million followers on Instagram have seen less of the rich kid’s partying ways.  These are small yet important steps for Manziel to work his way back to being a starting quarterback.  Although starting quarterback for the Browns is no great accomplishment.  It’s more about how he plays when he’s given that chance.  Then maybe we can care about Johnny Football again, but even then – even the most dedicated Money Manziel fan can see, that this ride may be over a lot sooner than some thought.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Everything Is 4” Album Review

There is a trend in today’s music that says: it’s not about the album – it’s about the single.  A label doesn’t really care about the direction you’re taking the next album but they want to know what’s going to get played on the radio and in the clubs.   The single gets the ringtones, the commercials and the glory.  Luckily, Jason Derulo has the “Midas Touch” when it comes to singles in today’s music industry.

Jason+Derulo+FLZ+Jingle+Ball+Show+GE97cozBy8ll

“Whatcha Say” – “Ridin’ Solo” – “In My Head” – “It Girl” – “Talk Dirty” — all of these and more have helped to collectively garner over 50 million in sales.   Derulo brings his energy and playfulness on every attempt and although it seems like he just released an album, the 25 year old pop star has shown no slowing down as of yet – releasing his fourth album “Everything is 4.”

Derulo worked his magic again with the lead single “Want To Want Me.”  Derulo keeps the formula simple with a dance track supplied by smooth drums and energetic keyboard stabs.  Derulo displays his impressive range whenever possible, and his “regular singing voice” and falsetto provide an easy harmony to vibe out to.  The airwaves ate this song up right when it was released and it’s safe to say it’s not going anywhere for a long time.

Derulo has a couple of duets on this album.  His duet with Julia Michaels is an interesting one because they both have very different tones and it works well.  On the track “Trade Hearts,” Julia Michaels offers her raspy semi-jazzy delivery to a track produced by Pop Wansel who throws in a nice string arrangement later in the song.  The song deals with a couple struggling with their communication and wanting to know exactly what the other is thinking.

The feature by K. Michelle on “Love Like That” would’ve been better left off  the album altogether.  The production seems incomplete, as if you’re waiting for something exciting to happen and it never happens.  The topic is about Derulo sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend – but it’s hard to believe anybody would risk that if the girl is K. Michelle because her voice is just awful and unsteady throughout the whole song.

acd38-10831739_340366429498430_946475767_n

One of the nicer surprises of the year has been the success of Meghan Trainor and at first it seems odd pairing her with Derulo on the track “Painkiller” but it works out perfectly.  The song depicts a couple who refer to each other as a high they love being on.  The chorus is energetic with both of them singing simultaneously : “Baby I’m back now feeling how I used to feel / You got me back now, stick around, this is for reals / you put it dow-dow-dow down my painkiller / you put it dow-dow-dow down my painkiller.” 

When listening to Derulo, often time it seems he gets caught up in his own schtick.   He personifies energy and sings his heart out on every track, but he can’t seem to get away from his “Trumpets” like routine.  He relies often on making sound effects with his voice or relying on sound effects to carry the weight of his song while he just “coasts” through them.  On the track “Pull Up” he puts the breaks on his voice screaming out “sccrrrr” and he proceeds to “pull up” to the girl of interest.  The lyrics are basic with him screaming “whoop whoop” in the back ground: “look at that sexy body, look at that trunk in the back / I’m a get a little bit ratchet because I never seen a girl like that.”  The song is one long childish sound effect.   He does something similar to this on “Get Ugly” except it works mostly due to production provided by Ricky Reed.   Derulo does his cheesy little things to the song, but it works even when he says stuff like ” ching a lang lang, ching a ling a lang lang.”   It’s a shame there is not a feature from someone like Fabolous on this track because this is right up his alley and would’ve filled in great in this track’s empty space.

“Cheyanne” is a track that’s as cheesy as it gets but it sounds like it has some “air play potential” anyhow.  But for all the cheese that is “Cheyanne,” the track “Love Me Down” sounds like a copy a paste track of anything currently out there by Pharrell or Bruno Mars.  “Try Me” features Jennifer Lopez and it’s Derulo’s attempt at giving some kind of Caribbean feel to the album.  J-Lo’s appearance is harmless, but that’s because she doesn’t really do much with her voice – ever.  The production sounds like a 2015 remake of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long.”  In an attempt to further push his numbers on the radio dial he teams up on “Broke” with Keith Urban and Stevie Wonder and it sounds just like it would – forced.  Stevie Wonder seems to be making the rounds lately with his harmonica and he didn’t let this opportunity pass either. . .unfortunately.

The album is more about “fun” than anything else just like the track “X2Cu.”   It’s a track where Derulo tells his current girlfriend that he can’t wait “for my ex to see you.”  It’s a clever play on words and Derulo vocally is at ease on tracks like these, which is more impressive than people realize.  His energy is never lost, and he layers his vocals perfectly more times than not.  The second part of “X2Cu” features Derulo slowed up and adding new melodies to the same concept and it’s probably the highlight of the album.

Jason+Derulo+Jason+Derulo+Visits+Elvis+Duran+7waJTdTKCqHl

Fans of Derulo will be disappointed that he seems to have done away with his adlib of  “Ja-Sonnnn Derulo” (although Trainor does it for him on the track “Painkiller.”)   He is what the industry wants right now: an artist who can put out radio singles at a high rate but as far as putting together a complete album, he seems he hasn’t done that yet and probably (unfortunately) won’t.  Derulo isn’t trying to make you think too much, he really just wants you to dance and hook up.  Mission accomplished Jason.

Rating 6 out of 10

G.W. Gras

Twitter @GeeSteelio

Who’s Left to Challenge the Seahawks?

Pound for pound, the Seattle Seahawks have been viewed as  the most balanced and deepest team in the NFL.  It’s rare to see a team get built from the ground up and have more than formidable depth on both sides of the ball.  The Seahawks get the best out of every team that they face every week, but no team has been a bigger thorn to their side than the San Francisco 49ers.

Colin+Kaepernick+Arizona+Cardinals+v+San+Francisco+Wojb5OGqK9fl

The NFC West used to be decided by these two squads who basically were mirror images of each other.  They both had offenses that lived off the running game, while their defenses were aggressive and in some ways paid tribute to the style of defenses played in the NFL of yesterday.

For the 49ers it was almost literally yesterday that they were a team that could go toe to toe with Seattle.   After the much publicized breakup between head coach Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers – things started to fall apart with this roster.  Running back Frank Gore signed an off-season deal with the Indianapolis Colts and with that the 49ers all time leader in rushing yards and attempts is gone.  Long time defensive linemen Justin Smith retired from the game of football,  linebacker Patrick Willis retired at age 30 and that loss wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the following retirement by much heralded rookie linebacker Chris Borland announcing his retirement for fear of long term brain damage.  For the same reasons, 25 year old right tackle Anthony Davis has retired as well.

Add to the fact that last season tight end Vernon Davis didn’t look the part of the pro-bowl caliber tight end he is paid to be and that now there are trade rumors circulating quarterback Colin Kapernick – the 49ers are simply not the same.  And won’t be for a while.

So who in this division will step up and challenge the Seahawks?

The options are the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals.  Let’s start with the Rams.

Head coach Jeff Fisher knows how to coach teams well enough to hang around in games they have no reason hanging around in.  That’s a testament to his coaching ability and how he tends to get players to play for him.  Fisher will most likely look to protect newly acquired quarterback Nick Foles with a punishing running attack from rookie Todd Gurley and second year man Tre Mason.  They have a head case at wide receiver in Kenny Britt and the two West Virginia wideouts who can’t seem to get anything right on the field in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin – defensively though – they are solid. With Chris Long and Robert Quinn applying pressure from the end positions and second year defensive tackle Aaron Donald coming through the middle – it makes life easier for this talented secondary and linebacker group.   Their secondary isn’t as talented as Seattle’s but they are talented enough for Seattle’s wideout group.  St. Louis needs to put this all together though.  With all of this talent they have on the defensive side of the ball the Rams were still “middle of the pack” in terms of rushing and passing yards given up per game.

Todd+Gurley+NFL+Draft+An9AQLVOWCWl

Everyone’s darlings of last year, the Arizona Cardinals are a team that’s easy to like because they don’t come with the “rah-rah” mentality that the rest of their division opponents have.  They also have (arguably) the best coach in the NFL in Bruce Arians.  One can make an easy argument that Arians has been the best coach in the NFL in the last three years.  He seemingly resurrected Carson Palmer’s career – then Palmer got hurt.  No problem, the team and Arians were confident with Drew Stanton under center. . . then came the injury to Stanton and even the amazing coaching of Arians couldn’t lift the below average talents of Ryan Lindley and Logan Thomas at quarterback.  Never-the-less, at full strength the Cardinals are a team that can put up 10 wins in a season AND give Seattle trouble for the division.

Defensively Calais Campbell is one of the best defensive ends in the league that nobody talks about but it’s their hybrid-like 3-4 defensive scheme that drives offensive coordinators crazy.  Arizona’s defense only averaged about 18 points a game to opponents and a lot of that was based more on a bend and don’t break (before the 20 yard line) mentality.

So when the question is posed : “Who will challenge the Seahawks in the NFC West?,” — there is one obvious answer: The Arizona Cardinals.

Bruce+Arians+Kansas+City+Chiefs+v+Arizona+v-JiqRjSIlpl

They have the talent on offense to at least spread out the Seattle defensive attack and minimize their blitzing abilities.   With Harbaugh out of this division and with Jeff Fisher’s best coaching days seemingly behind him – Bruce Arians is the one in this division with the savvy and intellect to top Seahawks coach Pete Carroll in a game of X’s and O’s.

Let’s be honest, if Bruce Arians was coaching the Seahawks in the Super Bowl – he would’ve handed the ball off to Marshawn Lynch. . .

 

G.W. Gras

twitter GeeSteelio

Cam and Carolina: It’s Complicated

When the Carolina Panthers announced last week that they signed Cam Newton to a five year, $103 million extension ($60 million guaranteed) the predictable question came up of : “Is he worth it?”

Cam+Newton+SiriusXM+Super+Bowl+XLIX+Radio+yJ5X52f2g7Rl

Cam Newton is an odd individual to really assess.  Cam is a legit duel threat back so when looking at his passing stats, one has to also look at his rushing stats.  With that being said, in his four years as a starter he has accounted for 115 touchdowns and 66 turnovers.  Last season his completion rating and completion percentage drop a few digits from his previous year and at times still looked like a rookie trying to figure out pro defenses.   But maybe those times when he was trying to “figure things out” – it was really him waiting on someone to give him an option downfield.

While most of the world was in awe of rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin last year, film would show more times than not, a rookie wide receiver who did not run his routes out at 100% each time and when he did run his route with a play still going on, he would more likely just stand around instead of looking for a soft spot in the defenses zone.  Jerricho Cotchery is a decent piece but nothing that will make opposing defenses worry about and this makes double covering tight end Greg  Olsen, a norm in defensive practices throughout the NFL.

The Panthers said this year they would go and get him weapons.  Their idea of “weapons” were giving the Panthers fans the reunion nobody asked for by giving Cam one of his former targets back, Tedd Ginn.  The also went out and signed 2012 draft bust Stephen Hill, who was so bad that the Jets didn’t even want him.   In this year’s draft the Panthers supplied Cam with Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess who is another big wide out ( “6’4” 230 lbs) but in a lot of ways may turn out to be more Stephen Hill than Kelvin Benjamin.  Funchess has the physical gifts to do something but is lazier than Benjamin and will have to work on technique a lot more (tends to “push off” defenders).

The running game has been a mess since the Panthers thought it was 1978 and they could just over pay three running backs to ground and pound their way to the NFL’s promised land.  Rookie Cameron Artis Payne is the favorite to win the job and he is to run behind one of the sorriest offensive lines in football.

So why give Cam this extension if the Panthers seemingly can’t get offense right?  Because he’s the only reason why this offense is being kept afloat.  Even if barely.

Cam+Newton+Carolina+Panthers+v+Atlanta+Falcons+rphiFu8j-cCl

This is a franchise that seemingly has head coach Ron Rivera on the hot seat after the month of September and somehow, someway – Ron Ron pulls a rabbit out of a hat and keeps his job.  If there was ever a time to break the bank it is now for the Panthers.   The Saints are a shell of themselves, the Bucs look decent on paper but never live up to anything and the Falcons have somehow found a way to play “negative defense” in the NFL.

Signing Cam Newton is smart, but the way NFL franchises go about giving money at quarterbacks is idiotic.  Now they put a huge price-tag on a quarterback who played most of last year beat up due to poor protection in front of him and a lame running game behind him.  While people are asking “Is he worth it?,” Cam Newton should be asking himself “Why would I want to be here?”

It wasn’t too long ago that this franchise was questioning the potential of Newton in terms of being a “franchise quarterback.”  This was an instance of them knowing he would get signed in a second if he was to hit the market for the same or even more money.  If Cam is lucky, maybe an organization that knows a thing or two about putting together an offense will make a call and pay the king’s ransom for him.

Cam+Newton+Carolina+Panthers+v+Atlanta+Falcons+tvpV4QLPDONl

There is another reason why the Panthers front office decided to keep Cam Newton.   He will get the blame for all of the front office failures.  Let’s face it, Cam Newton has made it easy for the media to come down on him.  Sometimes, it’s fabricated nonsensical stories about maturity and other times it’s his general demeanor that rubs people the wrong way : When things are good he’s a cocky showboat who can’t stop smiling / When things are bad, he pouts alone on the bench with a towel over his head.  The general public has been luke-warm at best with Cam.   If the Panthers fail this season, even with a bad offensive line and offensive talent around him – it is Cam who will surely take the blame.  All fingers will be pointing at number 1.  Wrongly, at that.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“Wilder Mind” Album Review

The London based band of Mumford and Sons have found a global audience and have received global acclaim to go with it.  Their first two albums “Sign No More” and “Babel” were produced by Markus Davis and saw massive success.  In an era were musicians (rock artists in particular) do not sell in record numbers, Mumford and Sons were able to go against that norm with “Babel” selling over 600,000 units in it’s first week and “Sign No More” became only the seventh album to sell over 1 million digital units.

mumfordsons

Mumford and Sons lean heavily towards the independent and folk music genres more than anything else so it makes sense they do well in today’s climate.  People look for voices that are calm and relatable in turbulent and unsure times and Mumford and Sons hope to communicate well with it’s massive audience once again with the release of “Wilder Mind.”

In an attempt to “grow” as artists, the band decided to go with James Ford over Markus Davis to produce their third record. The change in production was an attempt to expand their audience and take some steps away from their general stripped down sound.   All of that makes sense with the track “Tompkins Square Park,” as the British band pays tribute to a destination in New York City.  Musically the track comes together, especially the breaks after the chorus, where the band comes in sync nicely afterwards.

XQMGrYVY_400x400

The title track “Wilder Mind” details a break up and has a hint of David Bowie influence on it.  Lyrically, Mumford and Sons hit with simplicity a lot throughout the album but on “Wlider Mind” they deliver some relatable “break up” lines: “Beholden now I find myself awake / Waiting on the edge again / you sleep so sound with your mind made up / Drinking from your cup of broken ends.”

The album becomes a frustrating listen mostly because the vocal abilities of Marcus Mumford are noticeably limited.  His melodies are similar throughout the album and he only has two tones: low and sort of gravely and barely singing, pretty much talking.   Maybe this would be something to look passed if it wasn’t for the juvenile lyrics that are peppered throughout “Wilder Mind.”  For instance on “Ditmas” he mutters the following: “Careful hands, and wandering without that much to say / your words are empty as the bed we made / is there another way? / Oh love, is there another way?”

Mumford and Sons seem to be taking themselves to serious on the track “Only You” and it ultimately ends up being a sad comical attempt at justifying a lost love.   The song drags out with it’s simplicity and gravely spoken word poetry and goes into a break that is anything but “exciting” but more like a forced surprise attack on the listener.

In yet another heartbreak song, “Just Smoke” follows a predictable pattern as they seem to be getting caught in a rut with producer James Ford but the simple chorus assisted with hand claps should be enough to keep the new age flower-children content: “I thought we were done, and young love would keep us young.”

Generally, the album hits a pattern of it being “more of the same,” with tracks like “Monster” and “Cold Arms” but “Broad Shouldered Beasts” at least makes the album not a total loss.   Mumford sings about trying to not fall apart from his lover and will do whatever it takes to save the relationship even if it means taking the blame which he knowingly doesn’t deserve: “But wasn’t it you who said i was not free / and wasn’t it you who said i needed peace / and now it’s you who’s floored by fear of it all / But it’s alright, take it out on me.”

Mumford and Sons, l to r, Winston Marshall, Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett and Ted Dwane.

Mumford and Sons, have already established a fan base, and this album was more of a safe path to maintain that than it was to expand to a newer audience.  The simplicity of the lyrics are mind numbing and the music itself is nothing new or unheard – it’s just a regular listen by a band who is supposed to be more than regular.

Rating 3.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

“ALLA” Album Review

Coming out of Harlem, New York is Asap Rocky.  His road to hip hop stardom isn’t anything new : from a poor family, dealt drugs, saw death at an early age – began rapping – things happened.   That’s not to belittle his journey – at all, but one wouldn’t get that “defeated while coming up” tone if they listened to Rocky’s music.  Some would call him more of a modern day hippie – much like Wiz Khalifa and others.  He struck a $3 million dollar deal because of his mixtape success and has capitalized releasing hits like “F’n Problems” and “Wild For the Night” from his first album “Long. Live. ASAP.”   His follow up album “ALLA (At Long Last ASAP)” comes with the pressure of capitalizing off his commercial success.

IMG_0442

The album starts off perfectly with “Holy Ghost.”  In terms of delivery and tone, Rocky sounds more like T.I. than anything else, but delivers some insightful lines: “Satan giving out deals, finna own these rappers / the game is full of slaves and they mostly rappers / you sold your soul first, then your homies after / Let’s show these stupid field niggas they can own they masters.”   Rocky is a young business mind and finds it weird how some who have been in the game longer than him still get screwed over with music industry politics.  The laid back “Excuse Me” shows Rocky delivering a laid back flow in which he rattles off a perfect rhyme scheme.  Rocky likes to “flex” a lot and on this track he continues that pattern : “I spent 20 thousand dollars with my partnas in Bahamas / Another 20 thousand dollars on Rick Owens out in Barneys / I said excuse me, why the f*ck you lookin? What’s your problem? / I swear we gon’ have drama if you touch my tailored garments.”

He pays homage on the track “Max B” to the incarcerated rapper that goes by the same name but the hook by (mostly unknown) Joe Fox, throws the song entirely off.  Rocky has features by Kanye West and Lil Wayne on the album – and they both outshine Rocky easily.

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 14:  Rapper A$AP Rocky visits the SiriusXM Studios on January 14, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

Kanye produces and  is featured on “Jukebox Joints.”  This features Kanye doing his soul-sampling production which many miss, but it’s less a piece of production and more a lazy use of a looped sample.  Even when the beat switches up half way through the song, there’s nothing spectacular until Kanye jumps on the track himself, which isn’t a good look for Rocky.   On the track “M’$” Lil’ Wayne delivers one of his best verses in years (seriously): “Put a B up let’s fight, don’t get beat up tonight / Feet up in my European, I ride with me heater inside / Kill you an dyour dog then go put on a shirt that say PETA For Life / Like you sneez you on tight, you got beef I got white / You got beef I got white / I got green, I got white, I got pink, I got pints, I got lean, I got ice, I got needles and pipes. . .”   Looking into this situation a little more, Rocky must’ve felt that Wayne “spazzing” out on this track wouldn’t be good for him, so when “M’$” was released as a single, it was released with a second verse from Rocky and no verse from Wayne.  This isn’t good business from the young entrepreneur  who relies on the line “N*gg@ we talking ’bout M’s” to be repeated about 8 times to complete a sad and lazy hook.

“ALLA” is a tough album to listen through in one sitting, mainly because all of the beats are hypnotically slow.  Add to the fact that Rocky loves using the “screwed” up effect on his voice which almost makes the tracks slow down audibly.  The track “L$D” is an ode to his admitted favorite drug LSD – which explains a lot of the “hippie” and “psychedelic” feel throughout “ALLA.”  This track is all over the place and at times becomes incoherent.  “Fine Wine” is another weird song about a relationship coming to an end, but the “screwed” voice effect takes away from any real feel to the record – the combination of M.I.A, Joe Fox and Dream on the wrong just add to the confusion, as none of them bring anything of substance to the table.

IMG_0445

ASAP Rocky has talent, but sometimes seems stuck in a rut  when in comes to production.  An example of this is on the SchoolBoy Q featured track “Electric Body” : “Got a bitch in the spot and she faded / Yeah, corset top with the new ass shots / Couple Instagram likes, now she famous / Nose job, workin’ on some payments / On a new car, now she finna trade it.”  

A nice surprise was the addition of Miguel and Rod Stewart’s vocals on the hook of “Everyday.”  The track is listed to be produced by seven different people, but the main name on the list is Mark Ronson’s who’s blues / funk inspiration is peppered all throughout the track perfectly.

Rocky has a lot of creativity and enough talent to come up with better material.  Sometimes things just come together lazy although he probably thinks he’s putting in a good effort.  Amazing what drugs can do to your mind.

Rating 4.5 out of 10

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

What’s Left For Manning?

In 2012 Peyton Manning made the decision to play football for the Denver Broncos.  Manning wasn’t looking for a place to out to pasture, he was looking for a contender who’s missing piece was at quarterback.  In Denver, he found a coaching staff and front office he felt he could trust, as well as a roster packed with talent he could work with.  Coming off of spinal fusion surgery, Manning’s career (and more importantly his well being) are all at risk with every snap he receives under center.  Manning has never been the most mobile of quarterbacks and his present condition even makes an iron-man like Manning somewhat fragile.  That’s why, another big reason Manning signed with Denver was so his blind side could be protected by All Pro left tackle, Ryan Clady.

Unfortunately for Manning, he has lost that blind side protection for the upcoming season, due to an ACL injury suffered by Clady during Broncos’ OTA’s.

Ryan+Clady+Arizona+Cardinals+v+Denver+Broncos+zUelYEiDvV4l

Without Clady, the options left for the Broncos at left tackle are rookie Ty Sambrailo (Colorado State) and  second year man Michael Schofield (Michigan).   Unless the Broncos make a move to upgrade that position, Peyton’s confidence will be “shaky at best” in concerns of his blind side.

Keep in mind, last year was quite possibly the worst we’ve seen Manning perform.  Keeping in mind he still had 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this is Peyton Manning we’re talking about.  He threw the ball almost 100 fewer times and with that about 60 fewer completions.  The team noticeable worked the running game late in the year because Manning’s arm strength had showed signs of weakening as well.  Manning was doing things we haven’t seen him do before:  over-throwing slants routes, under throwing curl routes, throwing behind receivers on in and out routes — These are things Manning has done perfectly and effortlessly for most of his career so seeing a sudden drop in accuracy and efficiency is startling.

The word ‘startling’ is used, but maybe it’s because of how we perceive Manning and not the reality of Manning’s situation.  Manning is a 39 year old quarterback in denial.  Athletes, especially the great ones, typically think they’re immortal.  It’s not hubris or anything of that elk either – but for a player like Manning, who since college has been a leader in the locker room and the commander on the field – sees himself as a fixture in the game of football.  He has rewritten the record books and set an almost ridiculous standard as to what a franchise quarterback should be – in terms of play, preparation, practice and accountability.

Seattle+Seahawks+v+Denver+Broncos+ma0MCLcwdB9l

Be that as it may, the writing is on the wall for Manning’s career but he is going to ignore it as long as he feels the game needs him.  

The immortal of Peyton Manning, looked closer to mortal than he ever has in his career last year and the loss of Clady will prove to be huge.

Clady isn’t the only familiar face that is gone, as his head coach John Fox and his offensive coordinator Adam Gase  have both found their way onto the Chicago Bears’ coaching staff.  This enters the Gary Kubiak era in Denver.  Kubiak’s addition may actually help out the health of Peyton Manning but it may be a detriment to the roster as a whole.  Kubiak’s offensive plan is generally to control the clock and run the ball.  He isn’t into the ‘no-huddle’ and ‘quick paced’ offense that Peyton Manning is into, and that this Denver Broncos core has become accustomed to.

Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders is already on record saying “I’m praying that it is – but obviously it’s not going to be one of those offenses where you catch it and you’re going to have two receivers catching over 100 passes.”  Sanders had an amazing season last year, but one wonders how his 1400 yards will drop coming into 2015.  Sanders also isn’t the best blocking wide receiver, so he may have less time altogether on the field.

Seattle+Seahawks+v+Denver+Broncos+RBeMYGWWCuUl

The NFL is all about change, but change this late in Manning’s career isn’t good and it’s almost downright cruel – but , once again, running the ball keeps Manning out of harm’s way.

Losing Clady makes the already immobile Manning a sitting duck, when going against even the most average pass rushers in the league. The “power-sets” will most likely be employed during the season, using an extra half back or tight end to pass block, taking away from the spread out looks Manning and this offense have gotten used to.  Although in Kubiak’s defense of installing a run-first offense, the play of Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson last year has to be somewhat of a confidence boost. The question is though, was the success of those two backs due to the fact that defenses were mostly concerned with the passing game?

Time will definitely reveal the answer.

Manning’s legacy and legend should be able to walk away from the game – literally and figuratively but as long as he feels there’s a chance to extend his legendary status – he will continue to play.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio